Sponsors:

Job Interviews: Where Do You See Yourself Five Years from Now?

A friend of mine has an interesting take on what he calls “annoying interview questions” – and that includes questions about where you see yourself five years from now. (Others are about your greatest strength or weakness.)

While there’s certainly no one “right” answer for a question like that, some approaches work better than others. So without further ado, here’s what my pal L. Bosco has to say about it:

THOSE ANNOYING INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

by L. Bosco

Interviews are a pain in the neck!

Ideally you want to see if there’s a good fit between you and the employer. But most interviews are full of those “pat questions” that have been written up endlessly in books and even on blogs where so-called experts give job applicants handy-dandy “pat answers” to those over-used “pat questions.” So basically both sides could just as well e-mail in their parts and save everyone a lot of time. It’s a rare interviewer who knows how to create a really informative interview.

So job seekers must still sit through these often painful interviews (some where the interviewer is barely listening) and be prepared to answer these same silly questions: What is your greatest weakness? What are your strengths? How would you handle an angry customer?

And, my personal not-favorite: “Where do you want to be in 5 years?”

I always want to answer that last one with something like “living in Bora Bora on my lotto winnings” or “King of Siam” or at least “Sophia’s latest lover.” (The name mentioned to be filled in by you based on your own gender, age, preferences, and imagination.)

(Note from Work Coach: Uh…I’m not recommending you do that!)

It is a question where virtually any answer can get you into trouble, since you don’t know your interviewer. If you aim too high, you might come off as too ambitious and either won’t be around long enough to cover the cost of training or you’ll threaten their own position. If you aim too low, you lack initiative and won’t contribute enough to cover the cost of your salary.

So how the heck does one reply? I puzzled over this for days. And then weeks. And then more weeks. Finally, I could find no good “pat” answer that also felt safe. Therefore, I opted to tell the truth and the interviews be damned!

So from then on when I was asked where I wanted to be in my career five years from now, I told them:

“I don’t have a specific plan! I would like to advance. However, I am flexible. I will do my current job to the best of my ability and keep my eyes open for opportunities within the organization to advance even if it means changing roles. I am prepared to learn new things and contribute to the overall success of the organization in a number of ways. The only specific within that “plan of willingness” is that the opportunity be within my ability to learn, interesting enough for me to dig in and do a good job, and the compensation increase a reasonable amount in relation to the demands of the position.”

I was hired!!

I have since been interviewed for a number of promotions by a number of different people (most of whom have come and gone and never even met each other.) And when they asked me where I see myself in five years, I gave them all the same answer!! And I’ve earned eight promotions in thirty-one years.

The truth has one advantage over the best prepared scripts. No one is expecting it!

***

Note from Work Coach: For most of you who get a bit nervous at interviews, sticking to a quasi-pat answer still may be the best idea – or at least using a shorter hybrid version of L. Bosco’s answer: “In the next five years I’d like to see myself here advancing to the next level or at least learning new things and taking on new responsibilities if at all possible.” Or if it’s a job where learning and advancement are not the goal, then a simple ” I’m happiest when I feel that I’m an essential part of the company I work for – hopefully this one. In the next five years (and hopefully more) I plan to take advantage of whatever opportunities are available – but mostly, I want to do the best I can and know that I’m making a difference.”

Of course, if you are interviewing in a high-powered company that expects you to be hungry for advancement…well, if that’s who you are you sure don’t need help with a question like this! (-;

But no matter what your answer, when I interview people I strongly prefer candidates who are real and natural. Whatever you do, try to be yourself – even if yourself is a little nervous. (-; Look the interviewer(s) in the eyes, take a moment to connect, and then with as much truth and sincerity as possible make the words yours.

Since I know L. Bosco, my guess is that he won over his interviewers with his honest down-to-earth manner as much as with his words.

So where do you see yourself in five years? Hopefully not having to answer that annoying “where do you see yourself five years from now” question ever again. But please DON’T use that as your answer. ;-)

Good luck!
Ronnie Ann

More job interview articles I hope will help:

 

About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.

Comments

  1. yeap, this is one of the famous interview questions. no doubt bout it. i’ve been asked in nearly all my interview sessions before this.

    on one occasion…. i answered “I want to be a technical consultant” and the Managing director laughed and immediately failed me.. I have no idea why. Maybe because they don’t have that position…and don’t want to hire me?

    Well, on another occasion, I answered the same thing and I got hired. :)

    Conclusion – know where you are before u answer ! But things like being flexible, want to learn more, etc etc…those are basically the best answers you could ever get in this situation

  2. Hey Alvin! Nice to see you again. I like your conclusion. Sums things up nicely.

  3. No problem Ronnie. :)

  4. Hello

    I can’t be bothered with anything these days, but shrug. I just don’t have anything to say recently.

    G’night

  5. Hi tihopilik,

    I was going to delete your comment because it doesn’t seem connected to the post and your links aren’t real. But I’m writing this just to let you know I’ve been there myself. We all have. It’s a start that you feel the urge to make your voice heard at all. For me it helps to find things I truly care about. And then slowly let yourself do things that make your voice and heart sing!

    I wish you luck finding those things. BTW…a good place to start is connecting to something that really speaks to you – even if only a little at first.

  6. I recently had an interview and was asked this question. Though I knew that I would likely be asked something like this, I was totally unprepared. I’m new to job hunting and interviewing, and I just froze. All I could come up with was a lame comment about the management track.

    I just wanted to thank you for this article. It’s helped me organize my thoughts, so I hope next time I have a better answer!

  7. Thank you, Taisha, for taking the time to write me. Comments like yours make me feel great. And just so you know…even if you freeze up on an answer, you don’t always lose the job. Interviewers expect some of that from newbies. The main thing is to just be yourself – that way you have a better chance of getting yourself to a job that’s right for you. But you are definitely smart to use this as a learning experience and prepare yourself for the next time. Good luck!

  8. I am too ambitious and now I know this is the question that has snagged me each interview I have attended lately. It is such hard work to get an interview for the right job so take my advice don’t blow it on this question. The coach is right- and I’ll land the job next time…Thanks for the tip..

    By the way I was told I wasn’t global enough. I wonder where that came from? I dont’ remember being asked that question…how would the interviewer draw that conclusion- or were they just making up a reason not to hire me because I blew the first question? .. I guess that could be because of how I described how I deal with people- when you deal with people- I believe you deal with them one at a time – the world is round even if shaped like a globe, people are better dealt with one at a time…here or across the world. any how it was a big loss not to land that job…

  9. There’s no way to know exactly what was meant by “not global enough”. You are right that it may have been their way of trying to let you down easy. But most likely it wasn’t only the one question…it just wasn’t a good fit. And if it’s not good for them, trust me, you wouldn’t have been happy in that job.

    Just so you know, while I agree that finding ways to relate one-on-one and build strong individual relationships is a good practice, at times you also need to be able to address things using a wider angle lens. Flexibility and strategic thinking are key. Some situations require an approach that involve both one-on-one and group interactions/solutions. But that may not even have been what they were getting at. As a general rule, don’t be afraid to ask them to clarify the question if you aren’t completely sure what they are asking.

    Good luck finding the right match! It may take a while, but patience pays off in the long run. Just listen carefully, ask for clarification if needed, help them see the kind of skills and attitude you bring to the table should they hire you, and, most of all, be yourself.

  10. Thank you very much for this Tip. Today I had a telephonic interview with Royal mail for Operations Management Graduate scheme. I wasn’t prepare for this question and I was stumbled and got nervous, but managed to say that after completing and achieving all the targeted organizational goals, I would work hard enough to get a position in senior management.

    I am new in job hunting and that was my first telephonic interview.

  11. Sounds like a great answer! We all get nervous at interviews. Good practice whether you get this one or not – but I hope you do. Good luck!

  12. i was asking the same question for applying to a LLM…
    i dont know what to say..
    somebody can help me

  13. Hi Julia!

    This question is about YOU and where you’d like to be after law school. Just tell the truth and be yourself when you answer. It would be smart to take some time now to think about what you really want from the program. Do you want to be part of a respected law firm in five years? Do you want to have your own practice? Do you want to work for a judge? Maybe you want to work for government agency or a corporation or a non-profit.

    There’s no one right answer. There’s only the answer that tells what you really want. When applying for a master’s program, they want to know if you have a personal goal that this will help you accomplish. Mostly, they want to see if you’ve thought this through enough to have a vision of yourself working in the real world of law.

    Good luck.

  14. I searched for good responses to this question, and by far this one is the best yet. I have a interview tomorrow and I wasn’t able to come up with a answer that would sound natural and impress the interviewer. Your response fits what I really wanted to say anyway. I just needed a little help. I’ve been out of the job market for years and my interviewing skills have become a little rusty. Thanks for your help.

  15. Wow! I’m so glad you found something that feels right for you and sounds natural. That’s why this blog exists. Makes me happy when I hear it helped someone. Thanks for letting me know.

    By the way…I know how it feels to interview after a long break. It’s kind of like dating after many years off the market. (-; But I’ve found that being yourself really is the way to go. Just be very present: listen, answer as honestly as possible, don’t be afraid to let them know you’re a little nervous (it’s ok), and win them over with the sincere, responsible person you are and what you have to offer them.

    Good luck Sharon! Please let us know if you get it.

    Ronnie Ann

  16. Sachin Tyagi says:

    Doing five years from now I am looking myself in a big IT company as an experience holder on this platform. I can see myself as a Master of the (as java) when I will take new challange in my job. I will accept and do the work .I will do my best.

  17. Hi Sachin!

    I’ve worked in IT for many years and that is a good answer because it sounds sincere and seems to reflect who you are as a person. You sound like a team player, but also someone who will challenge yourself to be the best you can.

    I wish you much luck with your career!

    Ronnie Ann

  18. Hiii I have an interview after five days and i am looking for the best answer of this kind of tricky question…and finally i got it from you…i am very nervous and this is my first interview in America …i am from India and my first language is Hindi…so more nervous to participant in Group interview…plzzz give me some tips!

  19. Hi Sejal!

    Glad you found something helpful here. Congratulations on the interview!

    Don’t think you are alone. Group interviews make most people a little nervous – even me. The interviewers understand that. It’s ok to be yourself here – in fact that’s a plus – and that includes admitting you are a little nervous. Just remember to smile when you say it and then also add that you thank them for the chance to interview with them.

    I know how hard it is to speak a second language and the best thing you can do is listen carefully to everything they say and answer slowly and as sincerely as possible. Basically, when you answer, look at the person who asked you the question most of the time, but also take a moment to catch the other people’s eyes. Take your time to say what you want to say and if there is anything you would like them to explain better, it’s ok to ask. In fact, it’s better to make sure there is understanding than to just go on and on about something they didn’t ask!

    Remember to think ahead about what you have done in other jobs (or in volunteer situations) and be prepared to tell a story or two about a problem you solved or something new you came up with or something new you learned well or maybe even a time when you helped turn a mistake/problem into a success.

    Your job is to let them know they are getting a worker who will give them his all and go above and beyond if that’s what’s needed. If this is a position that requires certain skills, be prepared to be questioned about that. And if there’s something you don’t know, be honest and let them know you learn quickly. (A story here on that point might help.)

    Sit proud during the interview (but also try to look as natural as possible), and remember that you have a lot to offer them. Also remember to breathe in and out before you go into the interview room – and also breathe during the interview. ;-) At the end, if it feels comfortable, make sure to look each person in his or her eyes, one person at a time, as you thank the group. Oh…and remember to come prepared with one or two good questions to ask them!

    I wish you much luck! Please let us know how it goes.

    Ronnie Ann

  20. Alvin thanks for the great article. I was just working on a blog entry about the 5 years, ten years question and you definitely inspired my work. Thanks for the honesty.

  21. Hi Erin!

    Thanks. Although my name is Ronnie Ann. But Alvin does have great advice too, so I humbly accept your lovely comment for both of us. :)

    Good luck on your blog! (By the way, the URL you left doesn’t work. Let me know your blog’s URL and I’ll fix it.)

    Ronnie Ann

  22. The key is to be non-specific and refer in general terms to generic goals and objectives like self-growth, personal development etc.

  23. Thanks for adding to the discussion, Julia. Non-specific goals can be useful – as long as you don’t confuse non-specific with vague or evasive!

    Interviewers are mostly looking to see who you are and how you think. So the best you can do is look them in the eyes and be as real as possible. Too much self-growth and personal development talk can sound a little flaky if it isn’t mingled with at least some grounded talk of learning new things or advancing in the company/field.

    Ronnie Ann

  24. My biggest hurdle I find for this kind of question is that truthfully I’d like to have at least one child already, and either A) not be working at all anymore or B) be working part-time in a meaningful and challenging job.

    I feel like mentioning possible future family growth and maternity leave are giant no-no’s in interviews though.
    Any posts that deal with this Ronnie Ann?

  25. Hi Dataceptionist!

    Welcome. Sorry to say I don’t have a post (yet) that deals with this specifically, although I know I’ve had some that mention staying away from too much personal info in an interview that does not relate directly to the job.

    Your instincts are right. This is a topic that you probably should stay away from and, if asked outright, just say at this time you’re much more focused on career – or some such response. And leave it at that. If the questions stray into personal territory, you just redirect.

    Actually federal law (The Family and Medical Leave Act) requires a company to provide family leave for certain size companies – and some states have even more employee-friendly policies – but no employer can force you to talk about that in an interview. It’s pretty much considered a no-no for most companies nowadays to bring up such things.

    But if they do…no matter what you are thinking…it’s not all-that-misleading to keep your answer short and just tell them your mind really is on the job – and on doing the best you can. They don’t need to know all your thoughts.

    But you might want to research companies ahead of time that seem to have good family-friendly policies. Some actually allow you to work from home some days or even switch to part-time. I knew someone who worked for a bank and went from no kids and 5 days a week on the premises, to THREE kids and working from home. Now she’s a programmer, so that’s a bit easier to do from home, but since this is your real goal, some upfront research might pay off big in little dividends!

    To start you off, this will get you to a list from WorkingMother.com:

    2007 100 Best Companies

    I wish you all the best in your job search and in your real dreams. :)

    Ronnie Ann

  26. Thanks Ronnie Ann. Unfortunately I’m actually in Australia, but I think I’ll check google out to see if anyone’s compiled a similar listing for companies Down Under.

    I guess my question in relation to the post, was how to deal with the 5 year Interview Question without lying through my teeth.

    Also, I got Parachute out from the library, so thats for the recommendation, maybe it will re-invigorate me and point me in the right direction so I’ll be dying to get back to work after having a little one :)

  27. Ah! I didn’t hear the accent. :)

    As for not lying through your teeth…what I was trying to say is that you may have to think of it as an exercise in creative interview answers, and even though I stress honesty, you don’t have to tell every detail. The best you can do is imagine (in an alternative universe) what you’d like to be doing there if you wound up delaying having a child.

    You may be able to use what I said above “I’d like to see myself here advancing to the next level or at least learning new things and taking on new responsibilities if at all possible.” (you should think of a few possible things you might be interested in in case they ask) and preface it with some statement about not believing anyone can predict the future. You aren’t saying anything about 5 years for sure. But I assume you would like to learn things and maybe get promoted in the meantime. Yes?

    Not lying – just not going into details no one can know for sure and that they don’t need to know. And who knows…maybe if you do get the job, you’ll be able to spot (or create) an opportunity that would fit motherhood. These things do happen sometimes. So you would be telling the truth about looking for new opportunities. ;-)

    Sorry I can’t do better than that, but maybe you can take a little time to think about some parts of the job that really could keep you interested until the rest happens. This will help ground what you say. And remember to practice!

    Have fun with Parachute! No reason not to explore other dreams at the same time.

    Good luck!

    Ronnie Ann

  28. Thank you for this , I got an interview next week. Hope it’s gonna work.

    I hate this question!!!

    On one of the interview, was really fed up , and told them. I see myself in Caribbean.

    Thank you again this one looks great

  29. Best of luck, Igrec! Hope you get the job. ;-)

    Ronnie Ann

  30. Thank you for this blog. I found it after searching for the answer to this question and then read my way through everything. I then had a gruelling hour and half interview. I used the response that was given here for this question, though used my own words.

    I ultimately didn’t get the job, but the feedback was encouraging. They said that I answered everything perfectly, unfortunately, so did everyone else. The winning applicant was the one who hid her nerves, whereas I was not only visibly nervous, but admitted that I was when asked.

    Thank you again for all the tips here. They certainly helped me construct a strong interview.

  31. Thank you so much for that wonderful comment, Jo! You make a good point. All anyone can do is their best and even if you answer everything “right” it still comes down to whether the chemistry is right. Even being nervous can be ok in the majority of situations, so don’t worry too much about that. Just be yourself (you sound great), keep positive and unflagging in your determination, and the right job will come your way.

    I wish you much luck!

    Job Interviews: Practical Tips to Help You Ace That Interview


    Help! I Get Nervous When I Interview for a Job

    Why Do I Get Nervous During a Job Interview?

    Ronnie Ann

  32. Saurav Harish says:

    This is one of the best answer that I got and keep up the good work man

  33. Thanks Saurav! Good luck with your interviews. And just FYI…I’m a woman and proud of it. ;-)

    Ronnie Ann

  34. Boyd Richey says:

    My honest answer would be (HAPPY) in the job I’m doing, with the people I work with. And the people I work with are happy with me.

  35. Hah! love it. That’s a great answer Boyd. You can apply that no matter what your title or job is. And the reason it would totally work for you, is because it’s true. In the end, a person has to find an answer that feels real for them.

    Thanks for sharing! Best of luck in whatever you do.

    Ronnie Ann

  36. Hey Ronnie Ann,

    I recently graduated from a Master’s degree and am currently looking for work. It’s been two months, and I’ve applied to over 100 positions, and have had over 10 interviews, and have had no luck.

    Just recently, though, I went to the last two, and I think I nailed it! Both were second round interviews (Yikes! What does that mean?!) I spent the prior two days prepping for wardrobe, writing out possible questions they would ask, researching like a mad woman on the company… and went to bed, for the first time in days, without anxiety.

    The next morning, I was confident and collected and went into the interviews with appropriate attire and a positive attitude. One of the positions I really want gave me a plethora of good signs, and I just want to make sure I am reading them well.

    1. First off: The interview lasted for around 80 minutes, if not more! It was supposed to be no more than an hour long interview.

    2. They asked when I was available and sent me a pre-employment to fill out immediately thereafter.

    3. There were head nods, and even the senior producer at one point mentioned… “I would love to work with someone like you who is involved and engaged with…”

    4. They told me they would let me know by the end of this week of the verdict.

    5. I know one of the women on their team of 23, who recommended me…

    But now I am getting nervous. First off, I wonder if they say “We’d love to work with you” to everyone. And I wonder if going over the interview time, by that much, is a good or bad thing. Does that mean I’m too talkative?

    I also asked plenty of questions such as: How often does the person in this position work and collaborate with each of you? How often do you see them? How many projects does this person juggle at any given moment?

    And I even asked their work philosophies, and strategies (this was for a position in Junior Digital Project Management)…

    I made it seem that I was interested in them and their work. But I wonder if it seems bossy.

    Does my question make sense? I suppose what I am asking is… Is too much attention too much?

    Do their responses seem genuine? Or is there perhaps a way to gauge what they are saying?

    Thanks!

  37. Hi Amber!

    Sorry to take so long to respond. I was away on vacation.

    Sounds like you did really well. All good signs. Interviewing is like exercise…you get better and stronger as you go along. Seems you’ve gotten the hang of it. Congratulations.

    Fear not. This isn’t a game where interviewers cruelly lead everyone on. This much attention is usually a very good sign. Of course, I can’t guarantee anything, but you have a right to at least be hopeful that an 0ffer could be coming. Meanwhile, keep the momentum going by continuing to look!

    Please let us know what happens, Amber. Fingers crossed for you. Good luck!

    Ronnie Ann

  38. Safdar Faruq says:

    Hello Ronnie,

    Its a nice to see that you are stepping up to help others… Keep up your good work!

    Well, i am also looking for answers to below mentioned popular questions. Provide me the answer as if you are in my shoes & interviewed.

    1) Where do you see yourself in next 5 years.
    2) What are your goals with respect to the organisation.

    FYI – I am working for Agility logistics and our company is into 3PL services meaning third party logistics.
    I am being the Supervisor working for my Warehouse Manager with 49 employees under my supervision. I am aiming forward to the next level and also we are undergoing Supervisor’s professional development program.

    Please answer my question putting yourself in my shoes… as my Program Manager is an American and looking for high standard answer.

    Seriously looking forward for your valuable reply.

    From your reader – Safdar Faruq

  39. Hi Safdar!

    Thanks for the kind words. :) While I wish I could offer you the exact answer (1) as you’ll see at the end of the post, for the sake of my sanity I no longer answer each question in detail the way I once did; and (2) you would come off wooden if you came in with an exact answer.

    Anyway, you have your answer in what you wrote “I am aiming forward to the next level and also we are undergoing Supervisor’s professional development program.” Just show honest excitement about such possibilities and growth and you have your answer. It’s not as much what you say, but the honesty, sincerity and energy with which you deliver the answer. Also helps to say you are flexible about internal opportunities that may appear and figure that by doing your very best now, you’ll be ready when they arise.

    Good luck with your career – wherever it takes you!

  40. I had to google this one – I just had an interview, and this was the first time I have been asked this question. I was taken aback by it because – not only is it presumptuous in my fatalistic eyes (I might be dead tomorrow!!), but it is also deeply culturally different from the way my Slavic mentality works (work through today, all the worry about the future will still be there tomorrow).

    I stumbled briefly, then decided on “honesty is the best policy”. I said something along these lines – “Professionally; I will hopefully be gainfully employed working with a group of people whom I appreciate and who appreciate me, giving the maximum I have in my abilities and expertise, and enjoying the results of my efforts, hopefully in the field your company is currently working in (biomedical research) and creating the opportunities for our mutual advancement”. My interviewer nodded and smiled encouragingly. I just got back, so I still do not know if I had in fact gotten the job. But my take on it is that if I fashion some zinger answer that I anticipate they want to hear with the graphic presentation of my five year advancement, than we are probably not the best match in a long run, so there goes my five years’ plan right out of the window anyways.

    Anyhoo, just my two cents. This question should be stricken out of the interviewing process. Only pompous, privileged and delusional people can answer with a concrete plan.

  41. Hi Asja!

    Hah! You have me laughing. You are so right! Wish we could put you in charge of getting rid of all the stupid questions! ;-) Hmmm…might be a fun post to think about.

    BTW…I think you handled the answer great. Good luck getting the job!!

  42. I was recently asked that question. I have always gone with, “Moving towards promotion within the company.” And it has been an ok answer but never an attention grabber with any interviewer I’ve sat in front of.

    This last time, I changed my answer at the last minute. Someone told me that right now, more-so than ever, Interviewers are looking for skilled “people” and not Scripted Interview Robots. So I focused on what I felt was best for my family and said, ” I have 2 children. One in Jr. High and 1 in Elementary. It is crucial that I remain intact geographically to allow my teenager the best stability and growth possible. Therefore, I aspire to be in THIS position. There is ample room for growth within this area and so my answer is, in 5 years, I expect to be right here, continuing to exceed expectations and growing daily.”

    They LOVED that answer!

  43. I love it too, Lori. What a great response. What people so often don’t get is that interviewers really want to see the real person – and not, as you point out “scripted robots”. I get so mad at websites that tell people to deliver scripted answers that only hurt the candidates.

    I want to leave this on every website out there – although that might take just a little more time than I have right now. ;-) (If I may, I might post about this soon.) So happy for you!

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Good luck with what I hope will be your new new job, Lori. Please keep in touch.

    Ronnie Ann

  44. I had a telephone interview recently and I was asked this question. But, I was caught off guard. And I’m not very spontaneous, so I just kept it real. I told the interviewer, “Honestly, I don’t know.” Then I went on to talk about wanting to continue to learn new things and do work that I enjoy. And just wanting to do my job to the best of my abilities…stuff like that.

    I’ll keep my fingers crossed. :)

  45. Hi Perri!

    I think that’s a great response. Nice recovery.

    Some of this of course depends on the industry and factors specific to the job itself, but you can’t go wrong being yourself. Long ago fresh out of grad school I used to aim my answers toward what I thought they wanted to hear just to get the offer.

    Believe me, I wound up in more than one job for which I was NOT a good match – and it was painful. But the good side of making mistakes first-hand is…that’s how I got so smart. ;-)

    Good luck! Please let us know what happens.

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  46. Hi, Ronnie Ann. Thanks for responding.

    I got a call back. I will be meeting with the gentleman who interviewed me, and some of his colleagues. I ALWAYS feel confident that I can do a job. But, I’m not sure how to convey that confidence to potential employers.

    Making eye contact is a little hard for me too, (I’m a little shy) but I know how important that is during an interview, so I’ve got to gather up the courage to do it.

    I’m an Admin Asst. I’ve been stuck in this job for 15 years. FIFTEEN! I’m not exactly sure what kind of work I’d like to do, but I know it’s not this. I like to problem-solve and trouble-shoot. I like work that is technical. So if I’m doing work that is computer-related, I’m fine. If I’m stuffing envelopes or shredding papers (with my bare hands), I’m not.

    Thus, I feel the key to becoming unstuck is finding a new job. I need new challenges and stimuli.

    I’ll poke around here a little for some interview tips I can use.

    Keeping my fingers crossed. :)

  47. Hi Perri!

    So glad just being yourself got you to the next interview. Congratulations! And thanks for sharing. Good for others to know it’s not about being perfect – no matter what they might think or read somewhere.

    As for eye contact…you might try practicing with some friends or even in the mirror. Also helps to remember you are bringing them something no one else can offer – you. Not a small thing especially since you’re a problem solver – one of the most valued skills anywhere!

    And by the way…funny you should mention your skills since I just happen to have been an IT business process consultant for many years. What does that involve? In addition to researching and documenting business processes related to computer systems, problem-solving and troubleshooting are a big part of it! (If you want to know more, just ask.)

    I wish you much luck, Perri!! PLEASE let us know what happens.

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  48. Hi Ronnie Ann. I just finished reading your “Stuck in the Waiting Game…” post (http://www.workcoachcafe.com/2008/05/28/stuck-in-the-waiting-game-after-second-interview/) and I feel as if I wrote it. The hiring manager told me that there’s a hold up with HR. During the second interview he told me that there were three likely candidates, including myself. I received pretty good feedback from him. In fact your post “How to Tell If a Job Interview Went Well” really resonated with me, but I didn’t read it to the end because I didn’t want to think that I already had the job. :)

    Anyway, I’m waiting patiently (didn’t spam the interviewers with follow-up emails or anything). I’m trying not to think too hard about the HR thing. At the same time I’m still keeping my eyes on my employer’s HR website for other job openings.

    Again, I appreciate your great tips .

    thx!

  49. Hi Perri!

    Thanks for your kind words. Sounds like you’re doing all the right things. Glad you’re not spamming – although a nice follow-up after a couple of weeks is a good thing. Keep the momentum going and network, network, network!!

    BTW…just between us, LOVE your e-mail address. Very cool. ;-)

    Best of luck!!

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  50. Okay. I didn’t get the job. But, I did get a nice rejection. :) The hiring manager mentioned the possibility of a similar position becoming available in his department and wanted to know if I’d be interested. It’s not a definite thing, but I said that I would be interested. He said he’d keep me posted.

    As for why I didn’t get the job…well, it was too close to call. He said that he and his staff felt that I was a “strong” candidate and that I had a “great” interview. He also said it was a hard decision and that the other applicants “would have been easy choices to fill the position.” Perhaps he flipped a coin? :p

    When I asked if he had any suggestions on areas I could improve upon (to ace my next interview), he had none.

    Anyway, I’ll continue to poke around here for your wonderful tips.

    Keep up the great work, Ronnie Ann!

    btw, glad you liked my email address. :)

    Best,

    perri

  51. Hi Perri!

    So sorry about the job, but thank you for sharing this feedback with us. Good reminder that even if you get a “no” on the one job, keeping the connection warm can lead to a job down the road. They do remember the good ones and in your case, they even suggested the possibility themselves. A nice possibility at the very least.

    Meanwhile, good luck on your continued search wherever it may lead you!

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  52. Hi there, I am currently stuck in the limbo of waiting to hear if i got the job after a second interview, fingers crossed, just wanted to share a little something that i think my interviewer’s where impressed with, I was asked to do a 20 minute presentation in short and i decided 20 minutes before i left for my interview that i would print out a copy of all my notes and research for each of my interviewers and give it to them as something to refer to for them, it turned out to be a good idea as i was nervous and forgot half of what i wanted to say, they where able to refer to my notes and ask more in depth questions. I felt it was a good idea at the time so we will now see if it was a contributing factor to me gettin the job, will let you know, thanks for the fab site, will refer to it in the future

  53. Hey Kerrie!

    Thanks for sharing that. Smart to have all that “evidence” – sounds like it was the right thing to do for this situation. Also made it easier for your interviewers. Nice. ;-)

    Just one extra thought for readers: Important to make sure you still relax the best you can and be yourself, even if you have things for folks to refer to. In the end, they still want to know who you are and what you’d be like to work with.

    Best of luck, Kerrie. Please let us know how it goes. Fingers and everything else crossed for you!

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  54. Has anyone ever encountered this question during an interview before…”where do you see yourself in 6 months?” ARE YOU KIDDING? 6 months? Now I have to say that I’m generally impressed and pleased with how the company I’ve been interviewing with handles the process, everyone was professional, well versed in my resume, and employed a mix of methods during our time together. I’ve done 3 hours and 15 minutes with a total of 8 different staff members and have a great feeling about it. But I seriously got the question..”where do you see yourself 6 months from now?” I also got the few years down the road one too, but 6 months is absurd. I can forgive it because again generally I had ample opportunity to express my passion for global education, my skills, and my interest and knowledge of the company. I’ve gotten such great feedback that I know how I answered that probably isn’t going to determine if I get the job or not. So I said “In 6 months I see myself HERE, contributing to the team and still learning not only my own role but also how all of the different teams operate to achieve the overall desired goal.” or something to that effect. I’m pretty snarky so I put probably a little too much emphasis on “here” but I think my message was received well enough. I mean what are you supposed to say other than that? “I see myself just months after you hire me leaving for a better job.” Would anyone be dumb enough to say that? or “I see this as a way to get some more experience so I can use it to get the hell out of here?” I was surprised because there were so few of those pre-packaged questions or “pat” questions as they’re referred to here. I got the “how would you handle this” one but it’s a big part of the job so I understood that it had to be asked at least once. Oh and for the “where do you see yourself in 5 years” one I said something like “I just hope to be far more knowledgeable and a bigger contributor to the study abroad business. I want to have an in-depth understand of all the processes and procedures that go into the operation as a whole.” I don’t feel like I under or over shot myself with that…didn’t lock myself into anything. I don’t even know if it’s true, could be, but how can anyone know what will come up in 5 years? I think these questions are designed to see who comes up with the most articulate and real response on the spot.

  55. Your last sentence is right on, Mallory. That’s all I look for – plus an ability to think things through and communicate it well. Never heard of this one either. Sheesh!

    Thanks for sharing. ;-)

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  56. A load of bullshit is what it is.

    30 plus jobs over the past 12 months and most resulting in an interview but outcome being unfavourable. They want dummies. They want people who can give them an answer that just fitst in their tick box. They do not want reality. Fake people with fake expectations. Lies, deceit and conspiracies. Thats what people are good at.

    A good rant doesn’t serve me anything. But the outflow of reality to tell it how it is, gives satisfaction that I am not yet dead or dusted by the nonesense bureaucracy.

  57. Thanks for your perspective Mr. H! You are not alone as you may see here in posts and comments by and from other readers who share similar feelings. Personally I think good rants are great every once in a while. Glad you shared your thoughts and feelings here. Not so easy to do that in an interview. ;-)

    By the way…I’ve hired many people and the places where I’ve worked we were most definitely looking for real people and not the plastered-smile say-whatever-sounds-good person. But each place is different and not all interviewers know how to pick good people.

    And there is of course more that we look for. Here’s my list of some of them:

    15 Things I Look for When I Interview People

    Plus…a very clear picture of how your experience & attitude fit with the job and company. And I’m fine if you call that BS too. I have no doubt you’ll figure out your own way. ;-)

    Best of luck!

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  58. TO MY WONDERFUL READERS:

    I’m starting a blogging break today. But couldn’t leave without letting you know how much I appreciate your visits. See you in November!

    And if you’re wondering why the break:

    Blogging Overload: Do You Give Yourself a Break?

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  59. Like that idea of giving your interviewer a copy of your interview notes, I often end up getting nervous and sounding like a twat. A real kicker when what I wrote down sounds like it came from a swave guy!

    How do you answer the 5 year question, when its a position for a small company and really you should be somewhere else in 5 years, I think if I said ill be here they’d think im a weird stalker kind who has zero ambition…

    hoping for 2nd interview next week.

  60. Hi Brendan!

    Thanks for the comment. And congratulations on getting this far. Fingers crossed for you.

    You said: “and really you should be somewhere else in 5 years, I think if I said ill be here they’d think im a weird stalker kind who has zero ambition…”

    If they’re still there, why would they judge you? Sounds like you’re the one with the concerns. And quite honestly…vertical growth isn’t the only kind of growth. One can grow both vertically and horizontally in a small company, learning and taking on exciting new projects as the need arises. Why can’t you become an important part of what helps them grow and succeed?

    Good luck finding the right words that fit with what you really want – they have to be your own to really connect. And good luck getting that offer!

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  61. Oh Brendan…I’m so glad. You have so much to offer them whether now or five years from now. And who knows what the future brings anyway?

    Best of luck! ~ Ronnie Ann

  62. Hello! I just wanted to say this site was great and helped me a lot in my job interviews. The 5 years question was one of the thoughest ones for me. I think what helped me the most was to know the reason they ask that question in interviews. In my first interview the asked me the question and I knew exactly what to answer. I think internet is a great way to prepare for a job interview, it helps you know what to expect and prepare possible answers. My advise is to expect anything and not to memorize your answers, just know the company or place where you are applying, the job description, and answer your questions letting your interviewer know you are qualified for the possition. Eventhough you might feel prepared, you have to be CALMED, CONFIDENT and you have to project SECURITY. Look at your interviewer(s) in the eye while talking to them and smile. I had my first and second interview the same week, and in the second interview the law firm told me they wanted to make me an offer. I could not have done it that well without the advise I read from this page and others through the internet. Good luck!

  63. Congratulations, Marie! That’s wonderful news. And what a lovely comment. Thank you so much for the kind words and for offering readers some great advice – fresh from the trenches. ;-)

    Best of luck in your new job! Feel free to stop by any time.

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  64. i looking forward to have an interview in NI. i liked ur answer. fingers crossed for my interview

  65. Heather says:

    Thanks so much for this post. I never knew how to answer this question.

  66. thank you for the this post.. Its really help in my part… God Bless;)

  67. Thanks grazy! Comments like yours make my day. ;-)

    Best of luck finding a great job!

  68. intervieweefailed says:

    thanks for this!!!
    my interview at JP morgan cc this was the hardest. i really don’t know what will I be after 5 years… i will be 27 then..
    that sucked!!!
    Am I too ambitious if I told her that “maybe i already reached the apex of happiness” whoah!!! that’s not what i really mean… but since I’m runnin out of words–that was my answer… *sighs*

    pooor me!

  69. Hi intervieweefailed!

    We all get nervous and we all screw up at least a little in interviews. The trick is too not let it get to you and keep going anyway. In fact, if you catch yourself, just smile and say “Can I answer that again? I was a little nervous, but would like you to know what I really meant to say.”

    A good interviewer wants to see the real you. It’s not a test. And for the few that act like it is…you wouldn’t like working with a company they represent anyway. ;-)

    Good luck!!

  70. So what should I do when I am interviewing for a position unrelated to my previous jobs and I get this 5 years question? I gave her a rather generic, “While I have enjoyed my previous positions it was a field I didn’t actively pursue but rather fell into ( true, but I am now pursuing the field, but I don’t want to tell her this). I’m looking for a more customer service oriented position (this was). In 5 years I want to be in a job where I feel like I’m providing a needed service to our customers, that I’m enjoying what I do, and I feel like I’m contributing positivity to the company.” Her response was to ask me ” No I want to know the specific tasks you expect to be doing at a job in 5 years.” I think I mumbled something incoherent at this point.

  71. Hi Sarah!

    Sheesh! Sometimes all you can do is exactly what you did. ;-)

    In my opinion, that was a terrible follow-up interview question. I mean…who the heck knows exactly what they want to be doing 5 years from now, since you don’t have all the information you will have gathered by then? But I know that’s too logical for a situation like this.

    I have no idea what I would have answered. But I know I would have been thinking “not working for you, toots.”

    Sorry I don’t have a better answer. Maybe I would have remembered some of the job description skills and said by then I’d like to be the best at a, b and c.

    Anyone else have some ideas?

  72. Thanks Ronnie!
    I feel vindicated :-)

    I thought about mentioning that I was hoping to work my way up in the company, since they seem to encourage that there. But I didn’t want to suggest that I’d take the first opportunity for advancement they offered. Which I would have, because this was a low pay, part-time job., but it would get my foot in the door.

    That day I was interviewed by the hiring manager, the dept manager, and then shadowed someone on the floor for an hour. Things were going well.
    Then I interviewed with this director with the above question, who just seemed to have a sour attitude as soon as I met her. I even contacted them the next day to thank them for interviewing me and reiterating how much I wanted the job. I received no response!

    But you’re right – by the time I got out of her interview I knew I didn’t want to work for her.

  73. You sound great, Sarah. I wish you luck finding the right job for you!

  74. I recently had an interview for a part-time, on-call position with the county I live in. The interviewers told me the second I walked in the door every interview only consists of 3 questions, one of which ended up being “Where do you see your self in the future?” I didn’t know really what to say, but I answered honestly that I wanted to work on writing policy and reform on a federal or state level, and working as a licensed therapist. The position I am applying for is part time and does not require an immediate degree, so to say “I see myself in this position in five years” would have not been a very ambitious or impressive answer.

    At the end of the interview I did make sure to show my interest in making a career with their agency. I asked if the position had the potential for advancement to the next level (the same job but permanent, full-time, and full-benefits) after the one year probationary period. I let them know I am looking for an agency I can start a career with seeing as I am graduating with my bachelors degree in June.

    I think if you get asked the question you just have to be honest, but maybe not too openly.

  75. Hi Shawnna!

    Nice answer. I think you did really well both for the job you’re applying for and for future possibilities. Good luck!

  76. Rhythmics says:

    Hi Ronnie Ann,
    Here is the answer that I have given out before for this question,
    “I see my self working for a fastest growing company, where I have learned the entire business, masted the products and services it provides, and maintain relations with clients. With that, the team I am working for is performing at excellent rate as well as the company’s performance is great in the market, and I am one of the reasons behind my team and company’s solid performance. Overall, facing challenges, learning something new, creating a positive impace, and looking forward to come to work each day. That is the type of position I see my self holding in five years from now”

    I feel sometimes I am talking too much, or giving out answers above their expectation. What do you think? :-)
    Thank you so much for your help,

    • Hi Rhythmics,

      It’s good to worry about talking too much in an interview. You learn so much more by listening!

      Your answer to where-do-you-see-yourself-in-5-years says you want to be a high achiever working in a fast-paced environment. Some employers will love that, some will be threatened by it, and some – the less fast-growing companies – will think you are not a good fit.

      So I would modify that answer depending on the situation.

      Good luck!
      Susan

  77. Excellent answer by L. Bosco. Im very happy with answer and found this answer very much helpful. im preparing for my first interview and was expecting same answer. Thanks a lot…

  78. Nice one! very useful info.. God bless u :)

  79. I saw this AFTER my interview. I answered this one honestly. “I guess I am really not sure, except that I want to continue to learn new skills and add value to the company” I was thinking this might have blown it. They are apparently conveining tomorrow to select a candidate. I am not sure how long it typically takes HR to then make an offer but I am on pins and needles because I want this soooo bad. I submitted a thank you email right after the interview, followed up via phone to the main director that interviewed and left a voicemail to reiterate my interest and offer up my time if there were further questions. Should I call the HR person tomorrow morning right away? She was on vacation all week and I only had the phone interview with her. Ugh!

    • Hi machstr,

      Please don’t kick yourself too much for your answer. It wasn’t a bad answer. Maybe just not the best one you could have given, if you’d been prepared. Use your experience to improve the way you perform from now on. Job search is a learning process. No one knows it all, without having some experience.

      The delay in getting back to you may or may not have anything to do with your answer or with your overall performance in the interview. So many things could be happening internally.

      If you haven’t read it already, this post of Ronnie Ann’s should help you figure out when and how to follow up, How Often Should I Call an Employer After My Interview? — http://www.workcoachcafe.com/2010/05/03/how-often-should-i-call-an-employer-after-my-interview/

      Be careful not to get in touch too frequently. You don’t want to come off as a pest.

      Good luck in landing the job!

      Meg Guiseppi
      Member, Work Coach Cafe Team

  80. sargeorges says:

    Hey Ann
    I have always had a problm with ths querry.I ddnt know if its where you will be careerwise or education. Av bn telling wat al av achieved in education en the position I expect to be in at an organization.Is ths a gud response?
    Thanks alot en bless up

    • chandlee says:

      Hi,

      There are many different perspectives and potential answers to the 5 -Year question. My approach is to keep your answer simple — and related to the job you are applying for.

      I’m applying for this job because I enjoy using _______ skill (whatever skill is needed in the job). If hired,I anticipate that I’d be able to further grow my abilities in this area and in five years I’d hope to be using these skills in a leadership role. (Helps if you have a since of career progression for the job — e.g. if it’s an Assistant Manager, great to say in five years I hope I would be working in an Associate Manager or Senior Manager position.”)

      You can finish this response by saying you’d like to hear about others who’ve been hired for the position in the past…What have they gone on to do?

      Good luck,
      Chandlee

  81. I once answered that question with the following answer: “well, I see myself laying down on a surgery table while I get my boobs fixed, my butt lifted, my waistline smaller, and my nose more proportionate.” I did get the job, but got fired eventually because they though I was too vain.

  82. Probably the best answers I’ve heard yet! I feel that this answer is truly from the heart, because I too am not the kind that has those 5-10 years goals planned, and I’ve desperately tried to think of ways to still show my motivation while not having those “definite plans”. Really appreciated the article!

  83. I actually like the Bora Bora lottery winnings answer, as long as you say it with a chuckle. It breaks the ice of a painful question and shows you have a sense of humor and personality. I think it’s okay to lead with that answer as long as you circle back to a real one that is genuine.

  84. Very nice answer. I really appreciate the truth and I would say the same to anyone from now on.

  85. I had an interview this week, I came here because I knew they would ask me this question and I needed help coming up with a good, but general answer. I said the same thing but I put it in my own words. Do you know I got the job?! I couldnt believe it. It really did work.

    • Hi Wendi,

      Not sure exactly what take provided in this post — or comment stream worked for you — but I’m delighted to know that the strategy worked. And more importantly, that you got the job!

      All the Best,
      Chandlee

  86. I really appreciated your answer.I was asked the same question on a an interview but i was unable to answer. I was therefore disqualified but know i am feel great as i have the answer.

    • Hi Samson,

      Glad you find the information on this site to be helpful, and good luck in your job search. I would not assume that not being able to answer one question was the reason you were disqualified from the previous job you applied for — often there are factors beyong your control — and companies decide not to hire anyone (or a current employee) after the interview process.

      I wish you luck going forward, and thanks again for stopping by work coach cafe.

      All the Best,
      Chandlee

  87. First may i say thanks as i have been looking for the same answer on the same question. know my
    problem has been solved.I know i will make next time should i be invited in an interview.

    • Thanks, Sheila. Make sure you practice your response with a friend before your next interview! Always helps to talk it through. Good luck in your search!

      All the Best,
      Chandlee

  88. I use to interview people often. I also use to ask that very annoying question. Now, here is my excuse and the reason behind I am asking it: Perhaps there isn’t a right answer, but there sure is a wrong answer.

    I am not that concerned if you aim high or low. I am much more concerned if you are interested of staying in the field that you are applying to. If I am looking for “Marine” I don’t want someone to answer “Airforce commander”. “Pilot” is equally bad.

    And about aiming too high… With all respect: If you are applying for a job and you are not hired because you are too ambitious… Do you really want that job?! Really?

    Anyway. Just my own personal thoughts. Thanks for great article.

  89. Hello there!
    Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok. I’m definitely enjoying your blog
    and look forward to new updates.

  90. I will try this answer tomorrow at my interview. I’ll let you know how it ended up… ;) Hopefully good!

  91. Wow, thanks. That was really helpful. I flubbed the last two interviews because I couldn’t answer honestly with questions like that. I honestly DON’T have any particular plans. This gives me a good, structured, honest answer that I can give.

  92. I was once asked this question, and like yourself, I had got bored of giving the usual spin, so simply answered “happy”. The interviewer said it was the best answer he had ever had. This said, I didn`t get the job, but not due to that answer, purely because his friend who works in the field of reading people, was also sat making notes all through the interview, and felt I was over-talented for the job. Never really got that one, as to me, if I didn`t want that job, I wouldn`t have taken the time to go for a interview, needless to say though, in my letter from them, telling me I didn`t get the job, he did state, he still smiles at that answer.

    • chandlee says:

      Mark,

      Thanks for sharing the story with us. Good luck to you and let us know how we can be of help to you. We want you to be happy, too.

      Best,
      Chandlee

  93. pandorazzbox says:

    Thanks a lot for the article! Now I found the pleasant way to answer such kind of question. The moment when I was interviewed, it was so nerve-wracking for me. Well, as simply as it is, I told the HR interviewer my real answer. I don’t know if that was correct or wrong. Thus, I believe in myself that I’m just being truthful and I know by myself that I give off my best when I’m in the workforce already. :)

  94. This is the best answer I’ve seen yet to this question. I have contemplated a lot of what I want to do in five years.

    I understand they are looking for somebody who is long term with the company and that is why the question is usually asked.

    I’ve answered this question in a variety of ways, but I think I want to go for something simple.

    I’m trying to find something that is simply me.

  95. I got hit with this one and it caught me by surprise, I said retired! You should know I’m not lazy but I am 61 years old. In 5 years I’ll be 66. Found out from the head hunter that wasn’t such a good thing to say and a deal breaker. Duh!

    Thanks for your advice. I like the answer.

  96. Stephen S says:

    Thank you for writing this article. I didn’t necessarily come for help with interviews, but to answer the question “How do you see yourself in the work world in the next 5 years?” I’ve been asked to answer that question from a professor whose agreed to write me a reference letter. Although I do believe having goals for yourself in your career is a necessity, I also believe being honest with these questions is important. If this article has reminded me of anything, it’s that we don’t need to answer questions with robotic responses that we THINK they want to hear.

  97. Hi Susan, I wondering if you can help me with some advice on what to tell employers regarding wire left my previous position. I was a director role however it didn’t work out just do two issues with the lack of vision at the executive level and plan projects which were over projected. I decided to leave. What should I tell them because sometimes the new employer assumes that I was fired. So I’m being asked why and was I laid-off or did a quit. What do you think I should say and how should I approach this
    Thank you

  98. Hi Ronnie!

    I just wanted to say thank you for this post. I was looking up interview questions the night before my interview and found this site. The next day my interviewers asked this question and it’s the first time I didn’t freeze up and search for an answer. I gave a calm and organized answer and by the time the interview was over I was offered the job on the spot. So thank you! This website has helped me a lot.

    • Susan P. Joyce says:

      Hi Katie,

      Thank you very much for sharing your success with us! So happy that Ronnie Ann’s article and advice helped you. I’ll pass your comment on to her, and I know she will be very happy to hear your news.

      Congratulations!
      Susan

Speak Your Mind